New Novocastrians reflect on road to Australian citizenship

City of Newcastle

Twin sisters have spoken about their incredible journey from the rugged mountains of Afghanistan to Australia’s sunny shores during City of Newcastle’s first citizenship ceremony for 2024.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes invited 178 people from 46 countries including Iraq, Kenya, Brazil, Colombia, Nepal and Mexico, to take the pledge of commitment at Newcastle City Hall alongside family, friends and dignitaries.

New citizens Masoumeh and Maryam Hossein Zadeh join Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes at City of Newcastle's first citizenship ceremony for 2024 at City Hall

Year 12 students Maryam and Masoumeh Hossein Zadeh arrived in Australia in 2019 and after experiencing an initial sense of loneliness, they say they’ve forged lasting friendships.

“Australia, with its open arms, has become a home where dreams can take flight,” Maryam and Masoumeh said.

“As new citizens, we are not only a part of this nation; we are testaments to the multicultural fabric that enriches our collective identity.

“As we embark on this new chapter as young Australian women, we carry with us the stories of Afghan women and the dreams that led us here. We know today in Afghanistan that girls our age cannot go to school and bright futures are being abandoned.

“We are honoured and proud to stand among you as a new Australian family, carrying the richness of Afghanistan in our hearts.”

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the ceremony is one of the most important days of the year for new citizens and the community.

“Our city prides itself on being inclusive and we encourage Novocastrians to foster an environment of empathy and understanding when welcoming new citizens,” Cr Nelmes said.

“Newcastle is fortunate to be home to people of diverse nationalities, languages and cultures with around 19 per cent of residents being born overseas and 12 per cent speaking a language other than English at home.

“We are also proud to be a Refugee Welcome Zone and a Welcoming City, committed to creating a place where everyone can belong and participate in the social, cultural, economic and civic life of Newcastle.”

The ceremony featured a traditional didgeridoo and dance performance by the Deadly Callaghan Yidaki group, led by Alex Nean from Gamilaroi country.

Layla Rose Schillert from the Grainery Church sang the Australian National Anthem and was joined by Klaye Sanders to perform ‘I Am Australian.’

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